Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Of pipes and knives...

Some folks may know that I've been quietly been dabbling in knife making for a few years now, slowly building knowledge and skill, and trying my best to come up with a style all my own. Looking back, that's what I should have done when I started making pipes. Not that I consider my early efforts inferior, but I do wish they reflected more of my personal style right from the get-go. Of course, I'm sure that all artisans look back with similar thoughts. Sometimes the urge to get your stuff out there overrides the urge to learn more and keep developing. The impulse to present to the market is, at times, very strong. Since those early days of pipes, I've learned a little self control, and also learned to drink up the knowledge and experiences of others whenever I can - I don't have to constantly reinvent the wheel.

I recently put the first of my knives publicly available up on my site, paired with a pipe that deserved a special companion. I'm happy to say, it is no longer available. It seems, perhaps, my learning and experimentation has paid off?

I've recently finished more knives, and they're currently sitting in their half-finished sheaths. You can expect them to hit the site soon, as soon as I finish those sheaths and mark them with my stamp. There are two small utility knives, designed to be held between thumb and index finger like you might hold a box cutter - but way more useful, much better looking, and won't give your mother-in-law a heart attack when you pull it out to use it. Also are two knives in a style that I came to by accident. They're in the shape of a chef's knife, but much smaller. They're ideal for daily carry, being big enough to use for a variety of tasks - even for slicing up your dinner if you so desired. One of these will get a Kydex sheath, and the other a leather sheath. Both will be tastefully done, of course.

So, what of the title of this post? Well, as I was reading the forums over on The Knife Network, I stumbled on a post from another pipe maker looking for the same info I was hunting down a couple years ago. Small world, eh? I won't reveal who it is, you can easily find that out on your own if you're that interested, but I will say that he's a great pipe maker with really good following. I have all the faith that his knives will turn out just as good as his pipes.

Over on the forum, it also came up that a handful of other pipe makers have dabbled in knife making as well. This got me thinking about what might draw pipe makers into knife making. I have theories, but I'm honestly not sure. The techniques and methods, as well as a lot of the tools, used in pipe making are well-suited to making knives, allowing an easy transition for makers. When I shift from pipes to knives, I don't have to change any of my tooling, just a quick belt change on the grinder is all it takes. Then there's the mindset. I've noticed that both pipe and knife makers are thoughtful folks, that they share their experiences readily, and tend to lean toward libertarian or conservative activities. Most are also fiercely independent, and when you get right down to it, are knowledgeable in a variety of areas, not just the focus of their primary hobby or craft.

And the same goes for knife makers dabbling in pipe making. I know of a handful of folks that have been making knives for a good long time, that have taken the plunge into making a pipe or two. Most with excellent results, and some with an interesting fusion of the two crafts. It also bears mentioning that I've been somewhat stunned by the number of pipe smokers on knife making forums. Even if they're not making pipes, it seems a large number of knife makers are pipe smokers. Interesting!

So, pipes and knives go together? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Spaniards are coming!

I was recently contacted by a fellow in Spain that runs this little outfit:

I almost deleted the email, since I never pay heed to unsolicited bulk email, but when I actually read the message, I was a little interested. And no, not the kind of "interested" that might be associated with email hawking products that are GUARANTEED TO INCREASE YOUR GIRTH. I emailed him back, one thing led to another, and I picked up a sample pack of blocks.

I got the blocks the other day and so far I'm impressed. My previous supplier used to do all sorts of nice things like trim the blocks to size and write the grade on each one. It appears that Emilio's folks also do this. In addition, the wood is a nice creamy tan color - the same color that I've grown used to when using Algerian briar. The blocks are heavier than Algerian, but that appears to be due to a much denser wood, and not moisture content.

One of the tests that I use on wood I'm getting in, especially wood that I've used before (as with new suppliers) is to actually taste the wood. In this case, it tastes very, very similar to the Algerian briar that I use nearly exclusively. I'm going to guess that both outfits process their briar in a very similar fashion. Now what, you may ask, does it taste like? Well, like wood! But it's not like licking a myrtle burl or anything, it really doesn't taste like anything. It has a mild hint of white oak, with absolutely no resinous qualities, and zero bitterness.

These briar blocks look very promising, and I'll be making a test pipe or two to really put the wood through it's paces with a variety of tobaccos. I'll post more updates as they happen.